Who is someone that inspires you and why?
I’ve been half thinking about this all day, and I don’t really have a satisfactory response. When I was little, I’d be awed by famous types (living, dead, and fictional), but all too often found out that they weren’t quite who I thought they were as I grew. No one is perfect, and some people are downright deceptive. Now, of course, we can’t rely on the social media portrait of someone, as so many of us tend to only talk about our best traits or moments, painting a photorealistic yet fake image.
I read a lot of artist biographies, and I do find compelling these stories, particularly of women. I don’t know that I would say that Frieda Kahlo or Elaine de Kooning inspire me. I don’t imitate their style of work, and our lives are vastly different. I don’t copy their habits, I don’t use their media (except incidentally). But I nevertheless find them interesting and am inspired by the join of their desire to create, and their work. Their ambition where it manifests into output, I suppose. That’s a trait I would like to emulate and find inspirational.
Similarly, I am intrigued by people who are true to equality. So, the work of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I’ve read her biography and about her many different places, but I can’t claim to want to do what she does (practice law), though I find that her steadfast adherence towards making America a more equitable place is inspiring.
I also have friends who I don’t want to be like, but that have inspirational traits. For example, I have some friends who are fiendishly funny, or brave about confrontation, or able to phrase their thoughts so well and succinctly (or all three). Those are traits I again find inspiring, without actually wanting to Mr. Ripley my friends.
I wonder, today, if perhaps the best inspiration is to yardstick against yourself. Not try to be like anyone else, since surely that is doomed for failure and unhappiness, but just try to improve your own self against yourself. My children inspire me to be a more even-tempered mother. I don’t want to be a different mother for them, but be better than I am; the next evolution of myself. It’s perhaps solipsistic to say that you should be your own inspiration, but surely aiming for improvement based on your own potential is obtainable and realistic. I’m not saying it’s easy (that’s why therapy is so often hard), but there’s only one person you can truly, sustainably be, and that’s yourself. You do get to choose and cultivate your traits, so you might as well choose to be your own best self. I mean, not me, I desperately need a nap, but you. You should do this. Inspire yourself.